Odds are that if you peruse gun-related media inside the walls of Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen some attractive women in various stages of dress — or undress — accompanying a firearm of some sort. The gun bunny in its true form. Attractive women have been, and continue to be, a staple in our media-fueled world. They are engrained into our psyche, provocatively dressed or not. No matter the product type, media outlets utilize women for several purposes: to get our attention; to fulfill a fantasy; to create an ideal; or to represent a goal of who or where we want to be.
I remember when a beautiful woman holding a gun piqued our interest, and made us married men whisper under our breath “oh yeah, cool.” We referred to them as models. But now, with the constant social media barrage of T&A — or in this case, “G&A” — it’s become all too commonplace, if not over done. We now use the term “gun bunny” to immediately dismiss any female- and gun-laden content that we don’t approve of or that makes us uncomfortable. But is there danger in this label? Is it helpful or even necessary? And is it any different than the countless male figures that we see wielding guns in all forms of gun-related content?
Perspective on the Gun Bunny
Don’t get me wrong. I have no dog in this fight. My perspective is probably two-faced, and double-sided at best. I’ve been a professional photographer in the firearms industry for more than 10 years, but I didn’t start out here.
I started out many years ago in the bodybuilding and fitness world, photographing some of the best built bodies that you can imagine, male and female. I long ago accepted that a well-built person that could look good in less made people feel better. Had it not been for that, I wouldn’t be photographing guns because everything I learned in fitness applies to firearms. So, who am I to poo-poo on someone’s provocative girl-and-gun pics or the people who use the popularity it brings to pave their way through the social media highways?
What Is a Gun Bunny?
While the term gun bunny is derogative in nature, I think it’s important to know what a gun bunny is or isn’t. If a gun bunny is simply an attractive woman posing in pictures with a gun, then we’ve got a huge problem on our hands. In fact, by this definition I married a gun bunny back in 2007 — although she wasn’t a gun bunny until I photographed her with guns. She also appeared in countless magazines and covers. I had no idea I was creating such a controversial situation inside my own home. Guess I should have been more careful.
I asked several people about their definition of a gun bunny. Of course I got a variety of answers. Some answers outlined actions while some were simply straight up name dropping. But as far as I can tell, an actual gun bunny exhibits specific traits that include:
- Being female (attractiveness is subjective and open to interpretation)
- Specific physical traits (often determined by the breast-to-butt ratio)
- Posing with a variety of guns; Higher quality guns often give the accused bunny a “pass,” as opposed to lower quality guns, which lead to immediate indictment.
- State of dress (less clothing makes for more “bunny-ness” and typically more fans, yet brings more hate)
- Gun-handling skills/technique (bunnies with proper technique are often overlooked, although proper technique is subjective)
- Access to various firearms (hater-level is high if you are receiving guns from manufacturers or other sources for the express purpose of posing with them)
- Knowledge level (giving solid, credible opinions on guns, although frowned upon, is tolerable; Inaccurate statements bring swift chastisement)
There may be other characteristics, but these cover a good portion of them.
The Current Market
I’ve heard many express their resentment of entities within the firearms community using these gun bunnies to get attention and push their products. But why? Let’s keep in mind that we are all creatures of free will, actively and willingly participating in an awesome free enterprise system. That means we get to make, market and buy based on any factors we want — and that’s healthy. Anything less is called control and violates the right to freedom that we are all supposedly in favor of.
This all reminds of a time during the War in Afghanistan. Manufacturers that neither had a durable enough product nor anything remotely resembling a military contract, created advertisements with male models that looked like they were some special forces warrior mixing it up in some battleground overseas. Like it or not, that’s called marketing. Companies market their products to drive sales, and people market themselves too.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for some seven years or so, you should know that the largest growth segment of the firearms community is female; that probably won’t change for a while. Concealed carry permits are being issued in record numbers to women. This is why I believe we need to be careful instead of rushing to judgement.
Every time we put a female shooter down, whether she is “well versed” in firearms or not, we run the risk of alienating and further dividing an already fractured gun community. Yes, this community is divided on a number of lines, which I believe is but one of the reasons we continue to lose more ground as it pertains to our gun rights. Remember, the opposition is strong and they are reading from the same sheet of music, regardless of experience level or state of dress.
I gathered opinions from several female friends on this matter — some are working professionals within the industry; some are professionals in other fields; and some are models I’ve worked with. All have varying degrees of interest in firearms, but all are considered attractive women who strive to be professional and respected. They also find fulfillment in maintaining their beauty and will admit to wanting be viewed as sexy where appropriate.
Some mentioned that gun bunnies made it harder for them to be taken seriously in their own line of work. Others expressed a concern of any future for them. Opinions varied just like anywhere else. After speaking with them, it became clearer that this is a challenging topic.
In the end, regardless of their level of firearms knowledge or abilities, they all want to look good in the images they’re featured in — just like we men in the industry. Yes, I said it.
Men vs. Women
There is one thing that I know: Men and women are the same when it comes to vanity. I’ve photographed many gunslingers and wannabe gunslingers, myself included. None of us have given absolutely zero fucks about how we look in images. Every subject wants to look their best. They want the dopest gear, newest gun, or the rarest must-have accessory appearing with them in their images or videos. I’ve had men ask if I could photoshop their stomach out. Yes, they are sometimes sensitive about certain angles of their physical being. Yours truly included.
There are many male figures on social media, television, and print, doing all sorts of gun-related things, and “bringing it to the masses.” Techniques vary, but what’s most important is that you look good doing it. I guess we could discuss the necessary qualifications to be a serious gun dude, and not a male gun bunny. But not all of us are current or former military, law enforcement, or competitors. If that is the standard to be qualified, we have more issues. I know a lot of people who have been shooting since they could crawl. They spend countless hours steeped in the workings of firearms. They know more than many “experts,” but they may not be “qualified” by any specific standard of measurement.
What’s Good for the Goose
We can’t assume that everyone playing in the gun space has to look and act in a specific way; that’s not freedom. It’s also a thought process that creates false perceptions.
I once had a client insist that in their photos, the good guy must not wear a black leather jacket. In fact, anything black had to be an obvious play on tactical presences such as law enforcement. Instead, they’d always want the perceived good guys in a ball cap, preferably with an American flag on it. I have no personal issue with that. But what does that say to the guy prefers to wear a skull cap and hoodie? In this case, he apparently can’t be a good-hearted, law-abiding citizen, willing to protect those around him.
While I believe there is definitely proper shooting technique across all disciplines, I don’t hold to a hard and fast rule that the casual shooter must do things the way we more serious shooters do. The lone exception here is abiding by the rules of safe gun handling. The rest is subjective. A female shooter does not have look like a man when she shows up to shoot; nor do I want her to. I see enough guys that I don’t need women to look like guys on the range or anywhere else. Obviously, good functional clothing is best, but a few hot cases down a shirt, or a couple of smashed toes, drives home a point far better than a soapbox sermon.
Old vs. New
This gun bunny obsession is likely a symptom of our gun-laden boredom — a break from the norm. Our unprecedented levels of gun fun was first unleashed by the ending of the “assault weapons” ban in 2003 and fueled by our war overseas. I know my firearms interest greatly resurged during that time because no holds were barred.
The Internet brought training facilities to light. Technology and manufacturing processes brought us product developments that we never anticipated. Triggers, optics, rails, bump stocks — we gobbled up every new accessory that made its way to the marketplace. The hopes of the now dead Hearing Protection Act seemingly put suppressors on everyone’s map, although suppressors have always been there. We’ve chopped our ARs wide open for all to see their innards. Then we optic(ed) — that’s a word — our pistols to the max. EDC became hotter and is now slowly dwindling as appendix carry can’t get any easier, and it’s momentarily resuscitated by a new, slimmer carry gun of some sort.
Every year our SHOT Show after-action report is the same “nothing really new or exciting.” Lest we forget, it’s the actual shooting of the gun that’s exciting, and less so the amount of new products that make it to the market. And this is likely where the greatest divide between generations of shooters lies. Older generations of shooters were less into the stuff and more into the practice of shooting and the right to do so. Maybe it was less “cool,” however, it was also less superficial and more organic.
The Inter-webs Changed Everything
Social media outlets simply made easier what was already happening on a swath of user forums all over the inter-web. Just visit any long-standing gun interest forum; there’ll undoubtedly be a 50-page long “post your girl and gun” thread on there. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. Again, nothing new, only now your wife or girlfriend or significant other has her own fan page and she posts the pics herself, mostly.
Now instead of simply scrolling through a forum thread, in silence, people get to leave little flames, claps, and googly heart-eyed faces in the open for all to see. They’re also possibly sending lewd pictures and requests to the unfortunate model’s DM. With such access and direct connectivity, is it a wonder that the stakes get higher while the standards get lower?
This isn’t even a true dilemma. It’s simply what happens when lots of people with the same interest, yet varying opinions of how it should be approached or expressed, mingle in the same space. Because of “free” outlets of expression, the space is larger. Also, the number of easily influenced people is far more significant than many of us imagined it would ever be. This affects our ego, especially when “we are more qualified” than the person receiving all the accolades, likes, followers, and potential financial gain.
Can We All Just Get Along?
Beautiful girls and guns aren’t going away, whether they can use them proficiently or not. Tactical guys and guns aren’t going away either, whether they are qualified or not. Each portrays something each of us wants to be or have in some way, shape, or form; maybe not in entirety, but definitely in bits and pieces. When I have a photoshoot, my goal is to give the viewer something nice to look at; this often entails a good-looking product — regardless of perceived quality — and good-looking people, looking their best. It’s the world we live in.
Maybe we should steal some plays from the people who would have our firearms-related media completely abolished. Maybe we should practice getting on the same page. Quit putting each other down because “they aren’t as (insert whatever here) as me”; or “I wouldn’t do (insert whatever here) that way.”
If a woman wants to exercise her individual freedom by posing provocatively while exercising our Second Amendment freedoms, then so be it. We should be happy it’s happening because we can barely even mention the word “gun” in public anymore. And if that person’s presence on social media, print, or TV converts a few people to gun ownership, gets them more excited about guns, or prevents them from voting for legislation that enacts more gun control, that’s awesome. We need it.
The Burden of the Gun Bunny and Women in General
I’m happy I’m not a woman. Why? Because they are often caught in the middle of our social dilemmas to be seen as capable, smart and strong, while not being bitchy, too assertive, or too much of a bimbo. All that while maintaining physical beauty and femininity. All I have to worry about is if other guys think I’m cool. That’s easily handled by working out more, putting on more muscle, buying bigger, better guns, a better truck, shooting smaller groups, and improving my draw-to-first-round times. That’s easy.
As more female youth shooters evolve, they, with the help of their parents, will have to navigate the treacherous path of negative perceptions. The same goes for being their own person and making their own calls. With that comes being accepted and rejected, both inside and outside the gun world. These young and easily influenced daughters and sisters will be tasked with remaining relevant because, after all, she is her own “brand,” sadly much like the products we use up and throw away.
What’s most ironic about all of this is that if you’re on social media collecting likes or followers or making comments, or even in print writing reviews on the latest product, or perhaps on television guiding us through your latest epic hunt, we’re all looking for the same outcome. We want to be seen and remain relevant in a world that says if you’re not doing it, you’re nothing — whether a gunslinger, gun bunny, or something in between.